The grassy field facing the mansion’s east wing was boggy from the rain. Faith’s boots slogged through muddy patches, dirt the least of her worries. Teeth-grinding pain arced through her with every step. Her left shoulder was dislocated, right ankle swollen, grime covering bruised and bloodied skin. She could already hear the lectures coming her way from Wesley and Giles. This was her own damned fault, and she knew it, which was why she planned to wait until morning to tell them.
On the way back from Old Sunnydale Cemetery she had run into a demon, and not the scaly-skinned little wimp variety. More like a big, scary monster. Shaping itself from the softened ground, it took on semi human form, shifting like quicksand, its surface sandy one moment and then as hard as stone the next. Faith had not been paying attention to her surroundings too busy thinking about running into Bax and her early Slaying days back in South Boston. There was no precognitive sense of danger, nothing making her Slayer instincts kick in.
One minute there was nothing going on. Then, suddenly, a giant mass of rubble shifted. Rising up, it blocked the moonlight, red eyes fixed upon her. A gasp emerged from her throat just before it swiped her aside with a rocky arm knocking her off her feet. Flying back, she landed face down on a pile of dirt, ears ringing from the impact.
Pain ripped across her side sparking off a flood of adrenalin. She whipped up to her feet quickly trying to get a fix on what had attacked her, grabbing for her stake at the same moment she realized it would be useless. “What the fuck are you?”
The creature barely let her get the question out. A brutal onslaught gave her no time to get her bearings. It attacked without restraint, its face a mesh of dust and rock with a huge gaping maw that opened only to spew pebbled rocks with the force of a gale wind.
Smooth skin ripped where the sharpest pebbles sliced at her flesh leaving her cheek and bare arms bleeding, and covered with a dusty layer of sand. Faith dived for cover behind the large wheel of a bulldozer realizing only in that instant that this was the middle of a construction site. Not exactly a typical demon hotspot, but this was not exactly a normal demon. Still, there had to be a way to take it out.
A pile of narrow steel pipes caught her eye. They were the only potentially useful objects nearby. Staying low to the ground, she quickly crawled over to grab one noting it to be heavier than the quarterstaffs they used during their training sessions. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” she muttered while testing its length and balance. Better than going in empty handed.
When she emerged from behind the bulldozer, the creature was waiting statue-still and staring her down. It simply watched as she made a lateral flip across an open iron grate experimentally brandishing the pipe to gauge its reaction. Nothing. There was no glint in its glowing red eyes, no sign of emotion, just a sense of power waiting to be unleashed.
Faith had plenty of fight left in her. The confrontation with Bax went far too quickly to be truly satisfying. It was more of an anticlimax, really. All of the tension from their run-ins where somehow each time she had let him escape, disturbed by the way he always got under her skin, and the empty ache inside when her body recalled the way he used to fill her up, felt like a distant dream. He tried every trick, pulled every string, even as they fought tooth and nail for the two minutes it took for her to prove to him that she was not going to cave.
The shock on his face when a skillful move buried the stake deep in his chest left Faith numb instead of giving her the usual high she got from making a kill. She had watched his body turn to ash and crumble into a pile on the moist earth at her feet. The one tie left to South Boston gone forever, the bad boy who had never failed to steer her in the wrong direction. He was dust, and if a little piece of her heart crumbled along with him, she was not about to let Buffy catch on.
Maybe she had not been able to take out her hidden frustrations on the little demon of a dude who was just out to make a quick buck, but there was not a shred of sympathy to be found for this creature. Whatever it was, it needed to die.
A frontal assault got her nowhere even though it seemed to make a perfect target. Fury rose with each step she made toward it until the ground itself shook at her approach, a sharp riff vibrating her off-balance. Its scream shouted like the raging wind blowing hair in her face, making her eyes squint shut. Faltering back, she gripped the pipe using it to steady herself, then lifted it like a spear. The moment the wind died down, she hurled it forward with every ounce of strength she possessed.
Straight and true, it pierced deeply into the creature’s chest. Right where its heart would be— if it had one. Faith suddenly recalled one of Giles’ boring lessons on variant demon anatomy. Not only was it not dead, it calmly pulled the pipe out as if it was only a little splinter dropping it to the ground at its rocky base.
Faith backed away expecting another blast of sand and rock. The pipe may have done nothing as a spear, but she figured a few hard blows to the head might crack something open. No way could she get the other one back. Fortunately, there was a whole pile of them. Dashing over, she grabbed another, and peeked out from the heavy cover of the bulldozer.
The monster had not moved from its spot. From this vantage, she saw that it seemed to be fixed in one place. What she imagined might be a couple of ugly clawed demon feet was instead just a rockpile of dirt and stone merging with the ground. “That’s freaky,” she muttered, wondering how its fixed position might give her an advantage.
The longer she stayed away the smaller it got. Earth shifted around it until it sunk out of sight. Faith let out a little grunt of frustration. She still had some moves to make, a head to sever. “No fair disappearing on me. Where’d you go?”
A small backhoe blocked the area behind that spot. There was a hole in the ground, too, where the construction crew had been digging. Could the demon have been down in that hole and they released it, or was it protecting something they had uncovered? The hows and whys were just fleeting questions. Faith wanted it back again. Her hunter instincts had kicked in making her feel like a wolf that had cornered her prey only to watch it run.
Faith rushed toward the hole planning to jump in thinking there might be a tunnel down there. A blast of dirt and rock shot up like an erupting volcano when she got close, the creature forming again from the falling debris. Now too close, her foot got caught under the weight of shifting earth keeping her firmly in place as if a hand had wrapped around her ankle to hold her there. Jamming the pipe into the rock near her foot, she used it as leverage to break free. Without breaking stride she arced around to bash the creature on the side of the head.
The pipe connected so hard she felt the vibration all the way down to her hands. It did nothing but enrage the demon even further causing it to strike out with both arms. Faith scrambled back barely avoiding one hard blow only to connect with another. Right in the gut, a fist-shaped block of earth pounded straight at her catching her off-balance. “Oof!”
The punch curled her body up, but she quickly recovered. Close now, Faith grabbed onto its arm, swinging around its body to straddle its back. She held on tight as it wailed like the wind, struggling to free itself from her hold. Trying to strangle it using her enhanced strength had no effect. Simply ripping off its head was impossible. Its increasingly wild movements to shake her off were enough to rattle her senses.
Looking for a safe way off its mountainous back, Faith noticed something glinting from the depths of the hole in the ground where the demon had emerged. Curious to know if it was something important or just one of those gross items demons liked to stash, Faith dropped straight down to the bottom of the ditch. She landed on her feet, the short fall of five or six feet no problem. There was definitely no tunnel down here as she had first suspected, making her wonder where this fiend had come from.
The monster whirled like a dust devil made of shifting, twisting earth to stare down at her with those creepy glowing eyes, arms hovering open wide as if it planned to clap her between its rocky palms. Faith met its gaze, but slowly lowered herself to her knees to get closer to the metallic object peeking through the dirt. The moment her hand reached out to touch it the creature dived into the pit thrusting Faith against the earthen wall.
A sharp cry followed the jolt of her shoulder popping hard against the pressure of its grasp. “Stupid fucking move,” she growled through the pain realizing that she managed to trap herself in a hole this creature apparently called home.
That shiny object was no longer her concern. Priority number one was to get out of the damned pit. The steel pipe lay haphazardly on the ground beside her. Ignoring the jab of pain from her shoulder, Faith reached across her body to dig through the dirt covering it. When the demon reared back for another attack, she plunged the pipe into a softer spot hoping that it would cause a distraction.
Just like before, it stopped its attack in order to deal with the weapon piercing its torso.
It bent over to yank the annoying pipe out of the way giving Faith time to make a move. Pushing up from the ground, she leapt onto the demon’s rocky leg, stepping quickly up to its back, and then jumping up the last couple of feet to the surface. Panting hard, she tried to run only to remember that she had jacked up her ankle, too.
As fast as she could limp, Faith headed for the cover of the bulldozer and its nearby pile of trusty steel pipes. She leaned back against the humongous tire, far from exhausted. Anger coursed through her. Frustration at her own decisions. Confusion over why this creature was so damned difficult to kill. There had to be a way to take it out. She was certain Giles and Wes would want to see what it was guarding, or hoarding.
Faith waited for the attack to come wanting to draw it away from its safe little pit, but she remembered that it had looked like it was fixed to that spot. It was also suddenly, and strangely, quiet. Too quiet. The waiting was starting to gnaw at her until, finally, she peeked out from behind the bulldozer.
“Gone again?” She limped back out into the middle of the construction zone. Shouting at it, “Come on out and get me,” drew no response.
Only when she took another step forward did the earth around the pit start to shift. Faith stopped moving, and the ground stopped shifting. She took another step forward, and a mound began to form in the shape of the demon. Experimentally, she moved back to the original spot next to the bulldozer, and the dirt evened out again into a flat layer.
This demon did not act like a demon, feel like a demon, and certainly did not die like a demon. That just riled Faith up. The shoulder and ankle were less annoying than the fact that it barely took notice of her attacks. Deciding that she needed something different to fight this thing, Faith muttered, “We’re not done,” and promised herself that she would return tomorrow with something powerful enough kill it.
Returning to the mansion felt like a walk of shame. This night sucked the big one. Truly. All that had happened, and now some crazy demon— or whatever— made things worse. Faith’s boots slogged through the muddy grounds extending out from the east wing of the Crawford Street Mansion. The dirt was the least of her worries. A dislocated shoulder and swollen ankle added to her annoyances, but they were just part of the problem.
With all of the frustrations of the night adding up one after the other, Faith felt like her insides were about to burst. One good kill would have done it. Settled things. Gotten her to that place inside where she was no longer constantly on edge. At least now she could hit the shower and fall into bed without anything else happening to ruin what was left of this already crappy night.
So she thought.
The acrid scent of cigarette smoke hit her nostrils a moment before Spike emerged from the shadows. “Slayer, you look like something the cat dragged in. What’s with the arm?”
Faith stopped and stared. If there had to be a witness to her arrival, why did it have to be him? “And the crappiness continues,” she muttered. Telling him, “Ran into a demon. Literally.”
He motioned her forward with a curl of his fingers. “C’mere, I’ll fix it.”
Instantly suspicious, she held back, narrowed her gaze slightly. No way was she gonna trust a vampire to get that close. “Don’t think so.”
“Take care of it on your own then, silly bint.” Spike leaned back against the side of the building. “Don’t whine about it tomorrow when it still hurts.”
“What are you doing out here anyway?”
Spike shrugged. “Keeping an eye out. My turn at watch.”
Since when did Spike get put in the rotation? Faith sneered at him, “You don’t do crap around here. Except…” she trailed off as she remembered him helping out the hospital victims tonight.
Not about to admit that he had done something good for once, Faith changed her tone to just this side of nasty, “Except when you think you’ll get something out of it.”
“Planning to shove my fist into Isobel’s chest, crush her heart, and watch as she turns to dust.” Spike’s mouth spread into a sort of smile as he described his reasons for sticking around, getting off on the idea of revenge. “That reason enough?”
Spike wanted to kill a vampire. “I’m good with that,” Faith automatically tried a shrug, but pain shot through her left shoulder. She grabbed at it holding her arm pinned to her side and let out a riff of curses.
Chucking his burned down cigarette to the ground, he asked, “You gonna let me fix that arm?”
It was not like there was anyone else likely to be awake at this hour. Although she might be able to do it herself, Faith knew it would be easier to give in and let Spike help her. “Do you know what you’re doing?”
Spike reached up to brace a hand on top of her shoulder, and wrapped the other around her wrist. He grinned with an evil glint sparkling in his eyes, “Guess we’ll find out.”
“Wait!” Faith tried to step away, but Spike moved too fast twisting and pulling with just the right amount of pressure to pop her shoulder back into place. “Oh, yeah!” It felt so much better already. She closed her eyes and held on for a second as he released her arm to rub along her side and back tracing his fingers up to her shoulder.
Damn, that felt good. Faith let out a little sigh as his touch worked magic on her sore muscles, her body reacting instantly to his strength. Her nipples tightened up into hard little knots pressing against her thin cotton top. The contact between them enough to stir her up again, making her sex throb, reminding that her original plan for the night involved getting laid.
Faith liked to let loose, enjoyed pleasure when and where she could get it. She did not like games and for reasons that were all too obvious after tonight’s little reminder, did not want any kind of relationship. If it was like Angel being with Cordelia— totally hot, and somehow inevitable— yeah, she could go for that, maybe. For now all she wanted was to feel that hot rush, let lust have its way, and let go.
Not with Spike, she echoed the word no until she had convinced herself that it was a bad idea to consider it. Opening her eyes, she saw him watching her, amused at her reaction to his touch as if he knew he was the last person on Earth she would ever want to fuck. “Get your hands off me.”
They lingered just a little longer and roamed places that should make her want to break every bone in his skillful hands. Light touches teased softly. She let him because it felt so damned good when her body ached, desire making her quiver. He thumbed a nipple, then dropped his hand down to her crotch palming it through her jeans. Faith pressed her hands against his chest, a moment away from shoving him to the ground when he cupped her just a little harder.
Resisting the urge to create some friction, Faith ground out a warning. “Stop touching me.”
Spike chuckled as he pulled back the hand between her thighs. “Too bad I’m not into Slayers.”
Not her, maybe, Faith thought, completely fine with that, but she knew if she wanted him that Spike would probably give her a good, hard screw. Vampires were always up for it, and she always got a rush telling them where they could get off, usually right before staking them.
“Too bad I don’t screw vampires,” she countered with a sneer.
Biting back just as quickly, Spike scoffed, “Sure about that? Don’t think I haven’t noticed you get worked up over Angel—watching him fight, all raw killer instinct and noble spirit. Even when he’s with Cordelia, you eat it up, Slayer. You’re all greased up just thinking about it.
“Not denying it, luv?”
She wanted to pulverize Spike, beat him until he was a broken, bloody mess, until she crushed every bone in his wiry, muscular body. He was not wrong, not entirely, and that pissed her off. Just because there was something about Angel that made her hot did not mean she was going to do anything about it, but yeah, she knew she would have totally gone there if it had not been for her friendship with Cordy. He was gorgeous, powerful, brave, and a kickass fighter. Maybe it was his soul that allowed her to place Angel in a different category than every other vampire on the planet, but that was just the way it was. Not that she was ever going to do anything about it. That was one itch she knew would never get scratched.
Faith knew that Spike did not need a verbal confirmation. He knew exactly how worked up she was at the moment despite the accompanying pain. This time her demand came out as a warning as she wretched herself out of his arms. “Shut up!”
Limping away as fast as she could just to put some distance between herself and that annoying prick, Faith headed for the front door. Her shoulder ached, and her muscles throbbed, along with the internal buzz that made her feel needy and ticked off at the same time. She stopped in front of the stairs dreading the climb up to the third floor. It seemed a hellishly long way to go to get to a shower and her bed.
Then she remembered that Buffy and Willow were back at home for the night. That left a whole lot of space in the room they shared with Xander. It was a small suite behind the kitchens designed for the housekeeper or butler, not fancy like the second floor rooms, but nicer than the servants quarters where Faith was bunking at the moment. All were better than her shabby place at the Downtowner.
Even though the hinges of the door squeaked, Xander never stirred from the depths of sleep when Faith entered the room and stood at the end of the bed watching him. With the girls gone for the night he had abandoned his sleeping bag in favor of the bed. That assumed he was not the meat in their platonic bedtime sandwich on a nightly basis. He was sprawled out dead center, wearing striped pajamas, bedcovers pulled up tight to his chest.
Just how desperate was she? Faith asked herself. What she needed right now she was not going to get from anyone else at the mansion. Even if Spike might be willing, she was not. Angel was with Cordy, and while the thought of crawling in between them gave her a naughty thrill, it was just another fantasy she would save for desperate times, and tonight might turn out to be one of them. Wesley was another no-go. He had already warned her not to flirt with him wanting to keep things professional. Despite that she thought that was bonkers, Faith planned to try. As for Giles, he was hot in his own stuffy British way, and while Faith liked to rile him up now and then just for the hell of it, she never really considered seducing him. No, she did not want to screw around with Rup.
Maybe it just was not going to happen. After all, this night had been crap from start to finish. Dawn couldn’t be that far away. Honestly, the bed looked good, but Faith was covered in dirt and blood, and knew she needed to shower. Maybe if she got lucky, some of the tension she felt would just wash down the drain. Getting ‘lucky’ any other way seemed like a lost cause.
The shower felt great, and it did help with some of the tension in her muscles and joints. The scrapes on her skin were not so bad, and considering her enhanced healing none of them would scar. It might take a day for her ankle to fully heal, but she would still be able to walk on it. Faith’s immediate problem just would not go away even though she had tried to take care of the issue herself.
Feeling kind of desperate now, Faith flung open the bathroom door. Xander was propped up on his elbows looking confused and bleary-eyed. She was wrapped in a fluffy white towel, one corner tucked in between her breasts, which left her hands free. She lifted her arms and held onto the doorframe as she decided whether or not Cordelia’s ex might be off limits, too.
Stumbling over his words, Xander’s voice cracked as he reviewed the situation, “Faith, you’re in my room. Wet. Wearing a towel.”
“Took a detour. Ended up here.”
“I’m not dreaming?” He pinched his left cheek and let out an, “Ow! So not dreaming.”
He was kind of adorable for a doofus. Faith grinned, her cheeks dimpling. “No, but I’ll make tonight your dream come true.”
She laughed at his eyes went wide and he gripped the covers with both hands holding them tight to his chest. “Gonna have to lose those.” With a quick move she grabbed a handful of material and yanked it away.
Xander let out a little yelp, but made no move to escape or stop her advance when she lifted her knee onto the mattress. The light from the bathroom angled across her skin giving him a good look at the effects of her injuries. His brow scrunched up at the sight. “You’re all bruised and scraped up.”
“It’s all cool,” Faith blew it off as no big deal. “Some demon thing rammed into me. I decided to borrow your shower.”
She inched up onto the bed enjoying the way his eyes darted to her mouth, her breasts, and bare thighs. He was looking good, too, she decided. Not so sleepy-eyed, but awake and focused on her. No denying that Xander Harris was completely human, and that was what she wanted right now.
“Wh-why my shower? Plumbing words on the third floor, too.”
Faith quirked her eyebrows as she crawled up the length of his body. “Maybe I like your plumbing better.”
“The fight with the demon, y’see, I’m all wound up, about ready to pop,” she said hoping that it did not sound like she was begging for attention. Licking her lips, she explained, “Just need a good stiff poke in the right spot and I’m gonna explode. You up for it?”
For a moment, Xander looked like a deer in the headlights. Not mistaking her meaning, he managed a nod, his body reacting faster than he could find his voice. “Oh, I’m up for it. I’m suddenly very up. It’s just, um,” he quietly reminded, “I’ve never been up with people before.”
Faith was all too aware that Xander was a virgin. His awkward reaction to Cordy’s announcement made that kinda obvious. Since stamina was probably not going to be necessary tonight, Faith wasn’t worried about his lack of experience. “Just relax and take off your pajamas. I’ve got this.”
Like everything else about Xander Harris, he was an average sized guy, but he felt good in her hand as she helped his already awakening dick get harder. Faith straddled his hips and sank down onto him for a fast and furious ride, thrilling at his expression as he filled her up again and again. Bouncing up and down, her tight body squeezed his, creating an incredible sensation that made her pop just as quickly as predicted. She threw her head back shouting out, “Bax!” a moment before Xander came like a fire hydrant, too wiped out to say anything when she slid off him.
“That was great,” Faith grinned that patented dimpled smile. Still wrapped in the towel, she walked into the bathroom to grab her stuff, and paused on the way out the bedroom door only when Xander muttered, “Did I mention that I’m having a very strange night?”
Yeah, Faith thought, closing the door between them. Aren’t we all?